One of our quirky family pastimes is called the “IN Game.” It originated from watching ¡Three Amigos! (This movie is one of my favorites, but parents of young children should be forewarned that it does contain inappropriate language.)
After seeing the heroics of the Three Amigos in a movie, residents of Santa Poco, a small town in Mexico, want to hire the Three Amigos to scare off a gang of ne’er-do-wells that is terrorizing their village. Two of the city’s residents go to the telegram office to send a message to the Three Amigos, but the telegram officer has to edit it down to fit their budget. Of course the meaning is changed a bit, too.
The Three Amigos have just been fired by their movie company following a salary dispute when they receive the telegram:
Lucky Day (reading telegram): “Three Amigos, Hollywood, California. You are very great. 100,000 pesos. Come to Santa Poco put on show, stop. The in-famous El Guapo.”
Dusty Bottoms: What does that mean, in-famous?
Ned Nederlander: Oh, Dusty. In-famous is when you’re MORE than famous. This man El Guapo, he’s not just famous, he’s IN-famous.
Lucky Day: 100,000 pesos to perform with this El Guapo, who’s probably the biggest actor to come out of Mexico!
Dusty Bottoms: Wow, in-famous? IN-famous?
Hence, the genesis of the “IN Game”. We use the prefix in- to mean more than, instead of opposite. There are only a few simple rules.
First, you can’t use a word stem that doesn’t exist. For instance, you can’t try to put down a younger sibling by saying “You’re such a fant; you’re an IN-fant.” For that matter you can’t turn around and say “That’s such a sult; it’s an IN-sult,” either. There are more of these words than you would think.
Second, you can’t use words that actually need im- or un- to make them opposites. For example, “That’s so possible; it’s IN-possible,” or “That’s so fair; it’s IN-fair.’ Close, but no cigar. You must use the in- prefix properly.
Third, be sure to over-enunciate the in- prefix. It should sound like it is capitalized, italicized, written in bright red ink and several syllables in duration. This is probably the most important rule of the game.
Words fall into a few basic categories. There are run-of-the-mill in- words, like
- It’s so destructible; it’s IN-destructible!
- That’s so voluntary; it’s IN-voluntary!
- You’re so considerate; you’re IN-considerate!
- That’s so adequate; it’s IN-adequate!
There are words that actually mean the same thing, such as
- It’s so flammable; it’s IN-flammable!
(There aren’t a lot of these. I know we have come up with one other, but I can’t remember it right now.)
And there are vocabulary-building words, for example
- I’m so defatigable; I’m IN-defatigable!
There is even a Princess Bride category. Instead of telling Fezzini that he doesn’t think that word means what he thinks it does, Inigo could have played “It’s so conceivable; it’s IN-conceivable!”
The “IN Game” is great to play on long car trips when everyone is bored. It’s usually sparked by an innocent comment, such as “This trip is interminable!” whereupon everyone else in the car chimes in “It’s so terminable; it’s IN-terminable!” Then you’re off and running, and the trip doesn’t seem so long after all. It’s also great at defusing arguments. How can someone stay mad at you when you throw them a “You’re so sane; you’re IN-sane?”
I invite you to try it. E-mail me your best “IN Game” entry or leave a reply, and I will publish the best sometime in the future.